“Exponent Love in the Time of Covid” by Margaret Hemming Olsen

As I reflect on my tenure as the Editor-in-Chief of Exponent II, I am proud of the work we’ve done in achieving many of the goals I set in 2015. We have continued the effort to make Exponent II more intersectional, turning toward marginalized voices of queer folk, women of color, and people with disabilities. Our art editor and layout designer have expanded the artists we showcase and our editorial team has increased the number of first-time authors. As the first Exponent II Editor with no history of living in Boston, I’ve endeavored to enlarge the geographical reach of the magazine and increase the number of contributors and subscribers from all parts of the world. Over the years we’ve covered many of the topics that I hoped to tackle: environmentalism, midrash, art and creativity, and spiritual legacies. 

Producing an issue entirely during a quarantine due to a pandemic was not on my list of goals. As the Spring and Summer 2020 issues were conceived earlier, this is the first issue that began and ended during the COVID-19 era.

As we wind down the year 2020, I think all of us feel unusually weighed down, exhausted by what has happened, troubled by current events, and worried about what is coming. Producing this issue felt unusually hard as writers, artists, and staff dealt with increased burdens and a lack of time and emotional resources. Because of this, I am unusually proud of this issue and grateful to the contributors and staff that made it happen, even during an extremely hard time. The resulting collection of essays and art is powerful.

In this issue, Eliana Massey writes about experiencing the anticipatory grief of a queer woman knowing she needs to leave the church that she loves. “Exercising Defiance” by Jamie Stokes and “Truth” by Lorraine Jeffrey look at how modesty and chastity are taught in the Church and alternative ways of teaching those principles. Our Women’s Work feature introduces readers to Alexandria Scott, a woman who has started Ditto Kids, an anti-racism magazine with the goal to teach love, respect, and an awareness of inequality. Emily Gilkey Palmer examines religious freedom in the time of COVID-19 and offers the example of Thecla of the New Testament to show what a determined, faithful person can do without official sanction from authorities. Along with additional articles, we also share an extra dose of poetry, extraordinary art from several new contributors, and a profile of Rachel Stallings Thomander, our cover artist for this issue.

I recently announced that the Spring 2021 issue will be my last as the Editor-in-Chief. As the board prepares for the transition, I am truly excited to see what the next editor brings and how she will develop the next iteration of this beautiful, powerful publication. 2020 has proved, once again, that this organization has unbounded resilience and potential. I believe this is because it is built on a broad and diverse community, not on any single person. It is the product of a thousand different faith journeys and a belief that every human has a story worth telling. As we face what comes, may we hold fast to that foundation and to one another. I believe in us. 

“The Masses” | Annie K. Blake
Rachel Rueckert is the current editor in chief of the Exponent II Magazine. She is the author of EAST WINDS.

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